Letter to Her
by Jacqueline West
If you had let me live,
there is much I might have told you.
The way to my hidden spot on the river,
where the rushes are as tall as a door
and open for me when they hear my breath.
The tune I learned from the old flutist,
the dancing steps that go along, toe to note.
Even my secret name for you;
I might have whispered it into your ear.
How small is my view of the world.
The cartouche of a window, then street, temple,
water. Sometimes I dream of you
on your barge, coasting the current, guards
holding spears around your sweet sleep
as you move out of memory, out of my reach.
I might even have told you
my own dreams: a kiss, a fan, a cat to curl
on my pillow. How I would rather
be sister to a queen than take more. My hands
are small, no good for fighting off
the man you sent with his bleached Grecian skin,
his sharp blade, his shoulders rolling
solid as a tombstone between me and everything else.
I would have told you that you chose well.
I would have told you that his eyes were beautiful.
About the Author:
West's work has appeared in journals including ChiZine,
Mythic Delirium, Strange
Horizons, Illumen, flashquake, and
Prick of the Spindle. Her first novel, a dark fantasy for
young readers, is forthcoming from Dial in summer 2010. More
about her work can be found at
Poem © 2009 Jacqueline West. Photo by
Katharina Surhoff, 2007.